Negombo, Sri Lanka
The plane was initially disappointing. Old, uncomfortable seats, broken tv and having to sit here for next 11 hours.
We took off on time at 9pm.
Menus were quickly distributed and the food sounded promising. What I found most unusual was the front of the menu was a drinks bar list and soon after, the ladies were coming down the aisle with a drinks trolley. Not the usual soft drinks and fruit juice. This one was totally stocked with alcohol. Wow.
I was impressed with dinner too – paneer curry and would probably rank within one of my favourite planes for food – the others being Jet Airways (amazing curry) and Malaysian Airways (also really tasty curry – but also for serving magnums!).
I tried to get a few uncomfortable hours of sleep, but rather failed.
And soon they were waking us up for breakfast. Which at 4.45am UK time, I could not stomach. We arrived across the very green and palm tree filled island on time at 1pm local time (7.30am UK time).
The airport is fairly old. And surprisingly quiet. Not a single person infront of me in the immigration queue. After a very quick passport stamp, I did then have to wait a long time for my copious luggage.
Sri Lankan rupees are difficult to source outside the country. One forex desk offered to order around £40 max in for me. Not particularly useful. Seems that within the country they are also fairly difficult to source. It took me a good while of wandering around before I managed to find an ATM.
Totally hidden away.
It seemed that almost everyone from my flight had a prebooked arrival transfer. I hadn’t. The hotel had quote me $40. Which seemed a lot for a 20 minute drive. And I ended up paying 1,500Rp (£7, $11) at the official taxi desk.
Finally, away from the airport.
The roads were fairly quiet. Not sure whether I was expecting Indian Delhi style traffic, but I certainly didn’t get it. I was amused by the road traffic signs – pointing cars, tuk tuks and ox-cart (!) in certain directions.
We stopped at a level crossing, a train crawled past with men hanging out of all the doors. The drive to the Negombo coastline wasn’t far and after consulting a few locals, the driver dropped me at the hotel.
Very excited about the sunshine and the pool I quickly organised myself, covered in suncream and ventured outside, only to watch the dark thunderclouds closing in.
I managed a short while outside, enjoying the beach and pool. The small hotel complex sits on the sand. The boundary is marked by a concrete paving line. This line was dotted with around 7-10 locals at a time selling their wares – sarongs, wooden carvings and jewellery. All whilst glaring at the tourists and shouting at them from their border line. It did get rather uncomfortable.
I went for a walk along the beach.
Scattered with fishing boats and tuk tuks.
Several weddings were happening – lovely glittery outfits. It’s definitely not a tourist beach, but is enjoyed by locals – playing cricket and volleyball, hanging out with their families and going for a swim. The whole length that I walked along, at the sand-line, were large scale construction projects being undertaken. Probably in a years time this beach will be unrecognisable as tourism takes over.
The thunderstorms hit around 4pm, so I headed to bed for a rest. When I got up, I realised (from my sea view room!) that I was missing a lovely sunset, so raced outside to watch.
Rather than venture too far, I had dinner in the hotel. The menu was mostly western food – and nasi goreng! However there was a ‘Sri Lankan curry with rice’ option, so I thought I would try that. With no idea what it would turn out to be.
Turns out, the best choice! Wow. For a whole £3.50 (which is probably quite expensive for food here – I’m sure I will find out in the coming days) I had a huge mount of rice, a poppadum and lots of mini portions of the following: a dahl, spicy green beans, fish curry, sweet aubergine curry, vegetables in a mustard sauce and a sweet chutney type fruit/vegetable rather like an apricot with a spikey core (need to find out what those are!). Wow, it was delicious! Quite spicy, but all so tasty.
The portion was huge and I barely managed half – despite being my only meal of the day! Bed time.
Sunday 3 November 2013
After a sleepless night, I slept for most of the morning. Not doing well to adjust to the 5.5hour time difference. Which being honest, isn’t all that much.
After a breakfast of fresh fruit – watermelon, papaya and pineapple (not had those in a while!) time for the pool!!
Today is a lovely sunny day. Unlike yesterday which was really cloudy and rainy. And today the fishing boats had their sails up! So I went for a quick walk along the beach to have a look at them. Naively thinking they were cute fishing boats either getting ready to go, or just returned.
However, it turns out that these boats are instead just a tourist attraction and a ‘tour’ to go out for a quick sail. How disappointing.
At least they look authentic and traditional!
As the clouds started to set in, we bartered a tuk tuk (£1) to take us to the main Negombo town.
Just as we started heading off, it started to pour down with rain. Stupidly with no rain coat we were then left stranded in the town centre – running to some shops to provide cover.
Our map wasn’t very detailed and we had no clue where we were, so just wandered around until we found somewhere for lunch. It was a very local restaurant with a range of curries.
We tried a biriani and ended up with a mountain of spicy, golden-coloured rice. Very tasty! All for £1.50. Great value. By the time we had finished, so had the rain.
The town centre wasn’t too exciting. But it was like stepping back into India, but without the people. With brightly coloured, chaotic signs and haphazard pavements. The area we were in was the jewellery area, quickly turning into a bakery area. They were selling a lot of Bombay mix!!
The restaurant was next to Hamilton Canal. Negombo was once under Dutch rule and they certainly like their canals. There are 120km of canals around here. The canal took us past some cute houses and families who waved as we went by.
There were boats tethered up along the length, very pretty. The end of the canal opened up into a mangrove area and lots and lots of birds. One, which looked like a woodpecker with a royal blue back was pretty. Also a few egrit style birds – white, black legs and yellow feet!
The fishing boats moored up near the mangroves were odd. They were like a very narrow dug-out canoe with an outrigger on one side. Would be interesting to see how they fish from those!
We bought a mango from a guy on the road. We paid 35p, which was probably too much, but never mind – it was tasty! Orange flesh, rather than the usual yellow which I’ve had elsewhere. We carried on wandering around the narrow streets and bumped into St Mary’s Church – it was a huge, with lots of figurines lining the roof. Further along the coast was the fish market. Unfortunately closed today.
So the scavenging crows and dogs were plentiful. The smell of rotting fish hung in the air. There were a few people selling fish, but not many. One helpfully asked if we wanted some barracuda, pointing to a crocodile needle fish. Oh well.
The Dutch fort was built in 1648. And after wandering around in circles for a while looking for it, we finally spotted what was left of it – just a gateway.
After getting a tuk tuk back up the coast, it was time for another swim and an icecream. Even at 4pm it’s nice and sunny and warm! Lovely. The Bombay mix here is cheap – 50p for a large bag. Not had this in years!
We sat by the pool until sunset, which today was completely different. And disappointingly the sun quickly hid behind a large cloud. For dinner, similar to yesterday – Sri Lankan curry! Although I have now found out what the mystery fruit was – it’s called Amborella (and apparently I’ve had it before, cooked in a totally different way. Here, the fruit is soaked in vinegar with chili and other spices and is known as acharu. Really tasty! Early morning tomorrow for a bus. So an early night.